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Free Content Survival at low temperatures in insects: what is the ecological significance of the supercooling point?

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Many freezing-intolerant insects may die during long or even brief exposures to temperatures above their supercooling point (SCP). Consequently, the real ecological value of the SCP remains ambiguous, particularly for tropical species that never experienced cold exposures. The bimodal distribution of SCP is discussed in the light of sexual dimorphism. The importance of sex in insect cold hardiness has been regularly neglected and although we admit that in some species sex may be uneasy to determine, it should be taken into account in further studies. We suggest that supercooling ability may be, at least partially, a result of adaptations to other functions unrelated to cold, including the desiccation resistance. The potential causes of insect death at low temperatures during survival experiments have also been examined. Prolonged exposures at lethal low temperatures can produce deleterious effects (including death) even if the insect does not freeze; during long-term exposure to low temperatures the organisms may finally die from the exhaustion of energy reserves.

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Keywords: CHILLING INJURY; DIMORPHISM; LOW TEMPERATURES; SEXUAL; STARVATION; SUPERCOOLING POINTS; SURVIVAL; TROPICAL SPECIES

Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: July 1, 2002

More about this publication?
  • CryoLetters is a bimonthly international journal for low temperature sciences, including cryobiology, cryopreservation or vitrification of cells and tissues, chemical and physical aspects of freezing and drying, and studies involving ecology of cold environments, and cold adaptation

    The journal publishes original research reports, authoritative reviews, technical developments and commissioned book reviews of studies of the effects produced by low temperatures on a wide variety of scientific and technical processes, or those involving low temperature techniques in the investigation of physical, chemical, biological and ecological problems.

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